A Festive Solidarity message to Barnet UNISON members from John McDonnell


“Dear Barnet UNISON members, I want to pass on my personal message of solidarity to you all. I have shared a long association with your branch. I have had the honour to stand shoulder to shoulder with some of your members on picket lines, protests and demonstrations including the now infamous Barnet Spring march which took place in a blizzard. I admire your members’ resolve and relentlessness in facing up to your Council’s ideological obsession with mass outsourcing. I particularly want to salute the Barnet UNISON Library workers who have fought a two year battle to defend your Library Services, some of whom are facing redundancy. It has been a constant source of inspiration to see how your branch has worked in solidarity with your community to fight austerity. I know some public sector workers thankfully provide services throughout the festive season, but I hope that you all find some time to relax and enjoy a moment or two of celebration with your family and friends. Solidarity and hope to meet you all in 2017.”

John McDonnell Shadow Chancellor 






Barnet Council Libraries: “Transformation or Destruction?”

British Library, Kings Cross. March to protest about cuts to libraries, museums and the arts. Barnet Unison were on the march along with striking Barnet library staff. 05/11/16  BP AMS

British Library, Kings Cross.
March to protest about cuts to libraries, museums and the arts.
Barnet Unison were on the march along with striking Barnet library staff.

Barnet UNISON’s response to Barnet Council Libraries Services Transformation Programme

(Report to the General Functions Committee 6.12.2016)

UNISON remains opposed to the planned reorganisation of Barnet Libraries.

This reorganisation will in our view (and we are not lawyers) see the Council failing to comply with its legal duty

“to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service for all persons desiring to make use thereof,” (Public Libraries and Museums Act (1964). (7 (1))

The Council itself admits that the efficiency and accessibility of the Service will be adversely impacted:
“The reduction in staffed opening hours will mean less support available in the library to get advice, information and to utilise the resources in the library. This will have the biggest impact on those who may require support to make best use of services at static library sites or are less able, or confident at using libraries without library staff support” (Barnet Future Library Service 5.9.10)


Risks associated with the Restructure

The Council has proclaimed it will keep all libraries open but the Library restructure will have detrimental effects on individual libraries, the Service as a whole and the people who work in and use Barnet Libraries. The Restructure derives from a perspective that sees libraries as being little more than book collection points, which can be operated in the main through self-service machines. The quality, accessibility, and range of the services that libraries provide are being undervalued and the safety of the public put at risk.

Reduction of a Skilled Workforce

The planned restructure requires the loss of almost half of the current library posts, resulting in nearly 30 permanent library staff losing their jobs. This is a workforce that has consistently scored more than 90% for good service in surveys of public satisfaction. The Council believes staff can be replaced by the outsourcing of four libraries to the voluntary sector and using other volunteers and self-service machines in the remaining sites.

Staff Recruitment
The Council acknowledges that future recruitment to Barnet Libraries (much reduced) staffing complement will be difficult.

“Suitable candidates may not be recruited at the required level for the new libraries structure or may not be recruited in a timely fashion resulting in delays in future design and implementation phases.” (Libraries Service Transformation Programme )

The Council is already having difficulty recruiting, and a large number of front line posts are currently filled by agency staff. Since the 2013 restructure the Council has failed to fill all 7 FTE posts in the Service Development Team (the remaining professional librarian posts in the service). This is despite 25% of UK professional librarian and other library jobs being lost in the last 6 years*. Barnet Libraries in its present and planned forms is proving unattractive as a workplace to library professionals and para-professionals.

* http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-35707956

There is little prospect for career development for those staff that do remain in Barnet Libraries. The programme to support library staff to gain a CILIP recognised Library qualification was ended by the Council in 2013 and will not be reinstated. This effectively blocks the generally accepted career path for UK Library staff to Barnet workers. Barnet Library staff without such qualifications who are appointed to internal posts where this is usually a prerequisite elsewhere are unlikely to progress their career outside the borough. Barnet Council’s record of Library cuts also makes internal career progression less likely.

Short to Mid Term Closures

Major building alterations are also underway even before the General Functions Committee has voted its approval. Library space is being reduced and the interiors of libraries converted to other usage. The introduction of technology facilitating unstaffed library opening hours also requires major work. But the changes may not be implemented by the April deadline.

“Whilst the implementation date for this restructure is 1 April 2017, the committee is advised that transitional arrangements may be necessary to compensate for vacant positions, possible redundancies and handover of duties between current and future roles.”
(Libraries Services Transformation Programme: Summary)

Previous experience of library alterations, and the installation of the unstaffed library technology for the Edgware pilot, shows that work does not always run to time. It is possible, with even minor delays, that 10 Barnet libraries could be closed for building work in April 2017. Even if the timetable is adhered to the people of Barnet will be deprived of the use of many libraries during the coming months:

December 2016 2 libraries closed – Chipping Barnet, Mill Hill

• January 2017 3 libraries closed – Chipping Barnet, East Barnet, South Friern

• February 2017 8 libraries closed – Burnt Oak, Childs Hill, East Barnet, Edgware, Golders Green, North Finchley, Osidge, South Friern

• March 2017 6 libraries closed – Burnt Oak, Edgware, Golders Green, North Finchley Osidge, South Friern

• April 2017 4 libraries closed – East Finchley, Hendon, North Finchley, Osidge

• May 2017 2 libraries closed – East Finchley, Hendon

• June 2017 2 libraries closed – East Finchley, Hendon

• Chipping Barnet will also have further closures for building work in June to August 2017.

Loss of Library Space

The restructure involves building work to reduce library space by at least 15% to a maximum of 90%. This will result in less stock and fewer study and activities spaces. The Council’s intent is to rent out most of the lost space or hand it over to other Council departments or to partner organisations. UNISON is unconvinced that all the space will be used. No compelling business plan has been put forward for commercial renting and it is unlikely that a significant amount of money will be raised.

Children Discouraged

Children will be greatly disadvantaged by the Library restructure. Libraries will be unstaffed for most of their opening hours and under 15 year olds not with an adult will not be able to get into a Barnet Library. Even those who have a parent or other adult to accompany them to a library will not be able to make use of the advice of library staff during 70% of opening hours when those staff will not be present. Some children and their parents may not be discouraged by these barriers but the loss of children’s library space and stock will not be an incentive to visit.


Four Barnet Libraries are to be handed over to “Community-Led” organisations and will be staffed by volunteers. This will mean that the people of Mill Hill, Childs Hill, South Friern and East Barnet will not have direct and local access to the skills, knowledge, experience and expertise of library staff. No matter how well intentioned volunteers are they are unlikely to be able to provide the level of service currently provided in Barnet Libraries. The Libraries Services Transformation Programme report does not mention this outsourcing of 4 Barnet Libraries. The organisations which have been successful in bidding to take over these sites have not been disclosed, nor have dates been given for the takeovers.


During the seven months up to November 2016 Barnet UNISON received four reports of physical assaults (2 on staff and 2 on members of the public) in Libraries. There were also 27 reports of aggressive behaviour and verbal abuse, with victims being equally divided between staff and public. But not all incidents (including thefts) are reported to UNISON so the real figures are likely to be higher.

Library staff have had to step in to prevent incidents of anti-social behaviour escalating and have had to deal with medical emergencies on occasion. Situations our colleagues have to deal with include preventing fights and calming arguments between members of the public, dealing with people under the influence of alcohol and drugs, library users viewing pornography on computers, members of the public urinating and defaecating on library furniture and floors, racial and homophobic abuse and threats of sexual assault.

But the vast majority of library users are unaware of this level of anti-social behaviour. This is because libraries are safe places to visit in the main, not least due to the vigilance and response of library staff. But library staff will not be present for 70% of future opening hours. The Council believes that during unstaffed hours the safety of the public can be left to remotely monitored CCTV. The Council’s assurance of a thirty minute response time to an incident shows either callousness towards the safety of library users or wilful ignorance of the risk of unstaffed opening hours in a public space.

The High Cost of the Library Changes

The Council claims that a need to make cuts to overall Council spending is the rationale behind the Library Restructure.

“By 2019/20 the Library Service revenue budget will have been reduced by £1.6m as part of the Council’s Medium Term Financial Strategy.“
(Libraries Services Transformation Programme: 5:2)

However the above report makes no mention of the costs of implementing the restructure. These have previously been reported by the Council as:

Cost of changes Reference £millions
Reconfiguration of libraries (para5.3.3) 3.00
Technology enabled opening (para 5.3.4) 1.41
Redundancy costs (para 5.5.5) 1.500
Phase 1 (para 5.7.3 ) 0.400
Phase 2 (para 5.6.2) 0.375
Phase 3 no estimate provided
Total 6.685

(Source: Barnet’s future Library Service, March, 2016)

There is also a further cost of £75,000 per year for monitored CCTV

Costs associated with the Library Service have also been published in the Council’s Annual Procurement Plan 2017/18.

These are:

• Libraries Construction £12,000,000
• Office furniture, fixtures and equipment £100, 000
• Shelving and other library furniture, fixtures and equipment £500,000
• Legal £250,000
• Communication £25,000
• Removals £250,000
• Surveys & Consultants £250,000
• Technical Services £250,000
• Statutory Services £5000, 000
Total £14,125,000

(Source: http://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/documents/s36302/Appendix%201%20-%20Annual%20Procurement%20Forward%20Plan%202017-18.pdf)

The Construction spend will begin at the start of the next financial year, 1rst April 2017. The other procurements began on 1st December and must relate to the restructure in the short and mid-term. These latter come to a total of £2,125, 000

From 2014 the Council has already spent money planning and implementing the library changes. Barnet UNISON asks why this and the spending outlined above were not included in the Libraries Services Transformation Programme report to the General Function Committee.

Other Council Spending

Barnet Council intends to spend over £14 million on altering the library service with the avowed aim of saving £1.6 million by 2019/20. The Council claims it has no option but to cut the Library Budget, yet money has been found to fund £59,747,631 million on agency staff/consultants in the last four years.

And the Council is on target to spend over £20 million on agency staff/consultants by the end of the current financial year in April.


A large amount of money is being spent in transforming Barnet Libraries into a poor shadow of what was once one of the leading library services in the UK.

The Council’s plans for the Library Service will lead to a decline in use. Libraries will only have trained and experienced library staff on site to help and advise the public for around 15 hours a week. Library stock and the events they hold will be greatly reduced. Children will have their access reduced and libraries will become unsafe. This is not an attractive offer to the public and will lead to fewer people using them. The fall in numbers may then be given as a justification for eventual library closures. However these may only be announced after the next local government election.

Further Reading

Watch “Last call 4 Barnet Libraries” https://youtu.be/GiXBKDS-aAU

Further Response to the Library Restructure Staff Consultation

Unstaffed Libraries – Unsafe and Unproven





6 December 2016


“Barnet UNISON oppose the Council plans for Libraries.

The Council may not plan to close any libraries in the short or mid-term but what is being proposed will reduce their quality, accessibility and  safety and to closures in the long term,

The Council are proposing to cut the staffing budget by 46%.

This means that around 30 library workers are now learning they will lose their jobs. These are men and women who have given years and sometimes decades of service to the people of Barnet.

This is poor reward to a workforce who have consistently achieved percentage scores in the high 90’s for good public satisfaction.

Such a cull of the library workers means that libraries will only be staffed for 30% of the opening times at the most.  The Council claiming that self-service machines and to a less extent volunteer are adequate replacements.


The Council are relying on technology to control access to libraries.

People will swipe their library cards through an automatic gate to gain access during these times.

But under 15 years olds unaccompanied by an adult won’t be able to do this. So young people access to our libraries are being severely curtailed.


Leaving libraries unstaffed will put those using them at risk.

Monitored CCTV with a response time of thirty minutes is not a sufficient replacement for having staff on site who can prevent incidents escalating and who can respond immediately to emergencies.


But not only are human assets of the libraries being lost, the physical space is too.

Barnet libraries are to lose between 15 to 90% of their space.  This means fewer items to borrow. Less space for computers and less space to host events such as story times or author events.


The people of Mill Hill, East Barnet, South Friern and Childs Hill will not even have the limited access library service available in the rest of the borough. Their libraries are to be handed over to voluntary groups, who will only be obliged to open for 15 hours a week.


The Council justify the wrecking of Barnet Library Service by a claimed need to save money.  The intention being to reduce the library budget by 1.6 million pounds by 2019/20.


Yet the Council originally allocated over 6 and a half million pounds to restructure the library service. Recently we have learned that over 14 million pounds are to be spent on library procurements in the next financial year. This is a lot of money to be spent on reducing the assets, efficiency, accessibility and safety of a service.


These changes will lead to a decline in use.


Why would you use a library that won’t have the books you want, where no help will be available, not enough computers available, where there will be no room to sit and study and where you will feel unsafe?


Barnet UNISON hope that this decline will not be used as an excuse by the present administration to close libraries a few years from now.

Instead we ask that the Council withdraw the plans for restructure and to engage in real consultation with library staff at all levels, and the people of Barnet on how to provide a Library service fit for the 21st Century.”




“Unsafe & Unsustainable”- Barnet UNISON speech to Barnet Councillors 

The following speech was delivered to General Functions Committee,
on Tuesday 6th December at 7pm in Hendon Town Hall 

“Dear members of the committee

I addressing you as both the branch secretary of Barnet UNISON, but also speaking as a service user of mental health services, indeed without the support I was given and the ongoing support I still receive today there is a strong likelihood I may not of been speaking to you this eveningjohn-t-shirt

It is also worth noting much quoted statistic that one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year.

I therefore speak not only as a worker but from personal experience of using mental health services.

I also want to make this point that I believe is often missed by elected members. I speaking to you all as employers not politicians. It is as an employer I am wanting to address our members, your staff concerns about the proposal before the committee this evening.

Firstly, I can confirm we are not opposed to the staff being brought back into the Council and we are fully supportive of the proposed social care model of intervention.

However when travelling across the borough it is impossible not to see the number of housing developments; and with it the increase in population; and with that the increased need for schools, NHS provision, social services to name but a few public services.

It is therefore highly dangerous to be proposing to cut Mental Health services at a time when the population is growing.

It is our view that the proposed cut of mental health social workers coupled with the increase in responsibilities will NOT lead to a safer service for service users, families and carers.

Barnet UNISON is extremely concerned about the reduction of social workers and the introduction of Assessment Enablement Officers (AEO).

In mental health staff are working with extremely complex and high risk individuals in situations where you need qualified experienced and knowledgeable staff.

Currently mental health social workers have significantly high caseloads (which includes the work connected to their statutory responsibilities in their Approved Mental Health Practitioner roles.

The cut in social workers will lead to greater pressure upon an already pressured staff group increasing the risk of more Serious Untoward Incidents (SUI) happening.

You will no doubt have been briefed that the Council is not making any social workers redundant, which is true; and you will have been told that the new proposal to replace qualified social workers with AEO’s will provide a better service.

With respect this premise is nonsense.

The proposal to cut mental health social workers is directly driven by NEED.

However, not by the NEEDS of service users and carers, but by the NEED to make Austerity cuts.

Lessons learnt

I would like to remind the committee that it was only two years ago when I addressed this same committee about the now infamous Family Services restructure. At that meeting I tried to convince members of the committee to extend the period of consultation as I was concerned the changes had been driven through in haste and that I feared there would be consequences for the service and the staff.  Unfortunately the committee chose accept the advice of senior officers who are now no longer working for the council. However I can report that the restructure had to be revisited as I predicted, there was a high turnover of experienced social work staff which then resulted in the recruitment crisis you now have in children’s social work.


Sometimes it is worth listening to UNISON.


We’ve been here before 18th February this year, Adults brought a similar proposal to cut social work posts, and use non-professionally qualified workers.

My members, your staff, describe feeling they are “flying by the seat of their pants”

The rationale put before this committee for cutting social work posts was that new Capita IT database “Mozaic” would deliver efficiencies. Well 10 months later this is not happening because “Mozaic”, once again has been pulled. There have been so many false starts with Mozaic if they had been a sprinter they’d have been disqualified from the Olympics by now.


Consultancy spend

I want members to take a look at agency/consultants spend.

Last year the council spent £18.2 million on agency/consultants. This figure is larger than the year before which was £17.9 million, which was significantly larger than the previous year which was £15.5million, which was previously larger than the previous year £13.7million which was previously larger than the previous year £12.5million.

In the last two quarters of this year the Council has already spent £13.7 million on agency/consultants which if the current pattern continues could see the Council break £20million.

It is our view that the Council needs to address this agency/consultancy uncontrollable spend in order to protect vital front line services and in this case drop the proposal to cut social work posts.


John Burgess

Branch Secretary




Unified Pay round up – please read


Dear Barnet UNISON members

As we are nearing the completion of Job Evaluation Appeals for Council workers (non-schools), I thought it important to provide an update on progress.

I had originally thought we would get through all of the outstanding issues including schools before Christmas break. This is not going to happen.

However I do expect all outstanding issues for Council workers (non-schools), will be completed early in the New Year.

As a consequence of not completing the Appeals for Council workers (non-schools), we are only starting now to look at the Schools staff Appeals.

I would like to recap on the two types of Appeals:

Group Appeals 

This is an appeal for a job where there are a number of post holders such as Teaching Assistant, ICT technician, Nursery Nurse, School Business Manager. The impact of a Group Appeal directly impacts on all post holders in that role.

Individual Appeals

These are appeals for unique post holders, that is where there is only one person holding that particular job (it could be a job share).

Grounds for Appeal

I know there has been confusion as to what to put down as grounds for appeal, some members have been specific and others have ticked all the boxes. I want to assure UNISON members this will not disadvantage you, because it will be at the Stage 1 meeting where we establish what the issue is. In terms of feedback so far, fewer than 20% of the meetings I am having are actual true appeals. Often there are other issues which need other solutions.

 Stage 1 meetings in schools

At these meetings there will be someone from UNISON, the member, a Barnet Council HR representative and the Head (or other senior manager in the school). At this meeting we will discuss the issue and the possible solutions. I have already requested a number of Stage 1 meetings to be arranged.

Stage 2 meetings

This is a meeting with the member accompanied by UNISON at which we jointly present our case to an Appeal Panel (consisting of a member of HR and a union rep) for an appeal against the grade.

*** Please note it is very important that UNISON members do not go to any formal Stage 1 or Stage 2 meetings without their UNISON rep present. All Stage 1 & 2 meetings will, if possible take place in the school.

52 weeks Teaching Assistants

A meeting is being convened to discuss the 3.4% loss after which I will report on the agreed way forward.

Nursery Nurses

A meeting is being convened to discuss the 3.4% loss after which I will report on the agreed way forward.


John Burgess

Branch Secretary Barnet UNISON


“What the hell is going on?”- Update on Save Barnet Libraries campaign

Save Barnet Libraries

Save Barnet Libraries

Barnet UNISON Library workers, 46% of whom are facing the sack, are quite rightly outraged by the latest financial information on Council spend which was published last week.

Barnet Council Policy & Resources Committee meets at Hendon Town Hall at 7 pm on Thursday 1 December 2016.

It is Agenda Item 10 – Annual Procurement Forward Plan which has caused anger, dismay and disbelief.


Scroll down to point 17 in the procurement plan where it reveals proposed spend on Libraries construction of £12 million. Items 18-25 show a further £2.125 million for additional associated costs making a total of:

£14.125 million.

A quick recap on other Barnet Council spend.

Below are the Agency/Consultancy figures for the last four years.

  • £12,526,943
  • £13,775,546
  • £15,538,090
  • £17,907,052

Making a total of £59,747,631.

In the first two quarters of this financial year Barnet Council has spent £9.3 million which, if it continues at this rate, will bring the total spend for this year to over £20 million on Consultants/Agency.

Barnet Council claims it is being forced into the Library changes by a need to cut £2.162 million from the Library Service budget by 2019/20.

Members and Barnet UNISON have been asking a very simple question:

“Is it true that in order to save £2.162 million Barnet Council is spending over £6 million (which does not include redundancy costs) on a project to close four public libraries (by handing them to volunteers), on a project that will restrict access for disabled people and children under 15 and is now planning to spend an additional £14.125 million on construction and associated costs (making a grand total of £20.125 million)?”

This latest revelation seriously calls into question why staff are being made redundant and why a service with a 97% Customer satisfaction rating is being brutally dismantled.

As far as Barnet UNISON is aware the £14.125 million construction and additional costs have never been disclosed in any of the reports going to previous Children’s Education, Libraries and Safeguarding Committees.

What can we do?

There is still time to stop the destruction of the Barnet Libraries Service. Barnet UNISON will be speaking at General Functions Committee on Tuesday 6 December at 7 pm at Hendon Town Hall. The Leader of Barnet Council Richard Cornelius is on this committee. The committee could refuse to implement the redundancies which would save the Library Service.


Join Barnet UNISON on #6December


“We are not the rubbish we collect”.

Mill Hill Depot and Outsourcing

UNISON has made strong approaches to the Council and to the Barnet Group to stop plans to hand over the staff and running of the service to the Barnet Group. Unified Pay was brought in to harmonise terms and conditions for all council staff but a TUPE transfer will drive a coach and horses through this. We also believe there are enough problems to sort out at the depot without the added pressure of preparing for a transfer. They are:

  • Health and Safety
  • Depot move
  • Unified Pay

Each of these issues reveals a minefield of other problems. A leaflet has been produced for all our depot workers titled: “We are not the rubbish we collect”.


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